Healthcare Law and Ethics
Julia Matthews JD/MPH
November 13, 2014
The case of Elizabeth Bouvia v. Superior Court is a well-known case in the patient’s right to refuse treatment. Elizabeth Bouvia was born with cerebral palsy, which worsened, as she grew older and subsequently caused her to become a quadriplegic. She additionally developed severe degenerative arthritis that caused her to be in continuous unbearable pain. At the age of twenty-eight her condition had worsened to the point that she was said to be bed ridden and completely dependent on others for her activities of daily living. Although she had many physical challenges she was a …show more content…
Additionally they addressed the premise of suicide, noting “that Ms. Bouvia’s decision to exercise her right to refuse treatment and accept the consequences of that refusal was not equivalent to an election to commit suicide with the hospital staff aiding and abetting this act” (Bouvia, 170 Cal. App., 1145).
The Bouvia case highlighted several disparities between legal and ethical obligations. Legally the healthcare team had received the right to place and maintain the NGT citing their interest to preserve Ms. Bouvia’s life however ethically they were practicing medical paternalism by forcing choices on her when she was capable of making her own decisions. Ethically this was a direct violation of her autonomy. Additionally because of her previous attempt to starve herself to death there was question regarding her honest intent for why she wanted to refuse treatment. Legally they could not assist in her suicide, as they are socially committed to sustaining life and relieving suffering although ethically they were denying her a patient’s right to choose. Medical ethics principles of respect for autonomy and beneficence clearly conflict in this case, as do the legal ramifications and ethical principles. Due to the commonality of this conflict the American Medical Associations Code of Ethics has addressed